Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Old-Fashioned Class

Ross Douthat:

But compare the last Pew poll conducted in this race to the results from 2004. Among voters without a college degree, George W. Bush beat John Kerry by 53 to 47 percent; in 2008, Obama's going into today's vote leading 47 to 43 percent in that working-class demographic. The same goes if you define class in terms of income rather than education. In 2004, Kerry beat Bush by just one point among voters making $35,000-$50,000; among voters making $50,000-$75,000, Bush beat Kerry by thirteen points. Fash-forward to '08, and according to Pew, McCain's beating Obama by only six points in the $50,000 to $75,000 demographic, and he's losing to the Democrat by seven points in among voters making between $35,000 and $50,000. [emphasis mine]
Call me old-fashioned, but since when is it optional to define class in terms of income rather than education? Class is a matter of income and wealth, not education. I can see Douthat's difficulty here -- namely, there is not a ready, monosyllabic label to affix to the differences among people's levels of educational attainment -- but it does not follow that the word class applies, any more than class would apply to divvying up demographics based on eye color, national origin, musical preferences, rural versus urban, etc.

Douthat is correct on this narrow point:
[Y]ou had a lot of posturing from the Republican ticket about how the GOP is the more proletarian party, joined to very little substance addressed to the actual interests of lower-middle-class voters.
Yes -- we had, have, have had, and will continue to have much posturing and little substance so long as the GOP remains the GOP, since it is a party of, by, and for the wealthy that uses various stratagems to peel off just enough lower- and middle-class voters to win elections. One such stratagem involves exactly this conflation of educated and wealthy by fudging both into the nebulous category of elite. McCain and Palin have attempted to run as anti-elites (hence the 'Joe the plumber' garbage), but as Douthat acknowledges, their actual offerings consist of hectoring, demagoguery, labeling, and scapegoating but precious little in the way of tangible benefits. Douthat sees something new here?

Well, no. In fairness to him, he wants to see something new. He wants to see a Wide Stance party that actually offers policies that provide measurable improvements in the living standards of non-wealthy people. It's his perfect right to want that, but it's tantamount to wanting blood from a stone, poetry from a giraffe, or veneration of Joseph Smith from a Pope. Stones don't have circulatory systems, giraffes can't write verse, the Catholic church does not accept Mormon theology, and Republicans don't have anything to offer non-wealthy people except, well, the strong suggestion to get wealthy.

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